Michigan native John Bonhard took a conventional route into his new career in venture capital, with a start in investment banking. Less conventional is his ardent belief that he didn’t need to leave Michigan to pursue his next professional step. Bonhard found the MVCA Venture Fellowship program and a position at Beringea, where he reported back to us about the advantages of being a Fellow and the next big Michigan company he hopes Beringea can add to its portfolio.
How did you find out about the Fellows program? What advantage do you think the Fellows program gives younger professionals and venture firms when trying to make a match?
I knew I wanted to build my career in Michigan, and I also wanted to move from my former job in investment banking to one in private equity/venture capital, so I was looking for a position that would allow me to do both. I heard about the program from former MVCA Venture Fellow Bill Blake, and I spent a great deal of time learning about and applying for the MVCA Venture Fellows program before being hired at Beringea. While the program provides several meaningful benefits both to venture firms and young professionals, the most significant benefit that stands out to me is the alleviated burden of uncertainty when hiring for or into a small organization. Venture firms can shift away some financial risk of making a poor hiring decision and the young professional becomes part of a valuable network of like-minded individuals who can assist with their transition into the Michigan venture capital community.
What are you most looking forward to about being a Fellow?
I look forward to establishing a close network of venture capital professionals in the region and learning about the different investing styles and strategies of local venture capital firms. I also look forward to interacting with the talented pool of entrepreneurs in Michigan and finding inspiration in their creative successes. In meeting many individuals at the MVCA events this spring, I have already begun to learn and benefit from the knowledge and experience the organization’s members possess; I look forward to continuing to establish my network in within the community and working with other investors entrepreneurs and throughout my fellowship.
What will you be doing at Beringea?
In my role as an associate at Beringea, I will be responsible for assisting in a variety of capacities including deal sourcing, deal execution, due diligence, fund raising, and general portfolio company management.
What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
Over the next 10 years, I hope to gain a tremendous amount of wisdom and experience throughout my career at Beringea. I hope to be in a position professionally where I am afforded the opportunity to have a direct and meaningful impact on the strategic direction of one company or a portfolio of companies. And of course, I intend to still be in Michigan!
What attracts you to the venture capital industry? Why build your career in Michigan?
Whether in a personal, professional, or social setting, I have found that I approach each situation with an analytical and creative thought process. After beginning my career in Michigan as an investment banker and exploring different directions in which to take my career, I was introduced to venture capital investing whereupon I discovered what I believe to be the perfect alignment of my experience, skillset, interests, and career goals. I am attracted to the high-risk/high-reward nature of venture investing but also appreciate learning from the successes and failure of entrepreneurs. Having lived in Michigan my entire life, I recognize that the region has never been so rich with talented entrepreneurs; now as an investor, the opportunity to channel and support this talent is compelling. Michigan’s economy is still in the early stages of recovery from the Great Recession and I believe a strong community of entrepreneurs and capital providers will lead in the region’s economic growth for many years to come.
What’s your dream deal (the venture backed firm you wish YOU had spotted first!)?
If I had to choose one “dream deal” as a venture investor it would be Facebook. In its first 10 years of existence, Facebook has grown to become the fourth largest technology company in the U.S. The company’s success has benefitted greatly from several mainstream market forces such as the rise and hype of big data and social media. And as goes the path of many startups, Facebook has transformed from a social network into a big-data and digital advertising tycoon. Investing in a venture round of something as revolutionary as Facebook is a rare opportunity, but I will certainly be keeping my eye out for the next one (hopefully in Michigan this time) to add to our Beringea portfolio!